The Legacy of Barack Obama’s Presidency By: Barry Burkett

The Legacy of Barack Obama’s Presidency

By: Barry Burkett

Black History Month is a time of the year that allows all Americans, to take a step back and reflect on how far our country has come from the days of slavery. Without the efforts of brave men and women such as Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and Muhammed Ali, it would have been unimaginable for America to be where it is today. With Black History Month drawing near the end, it is only appropriate to reflect on the presidency of a great man, husband, and father Barack Obama.

As the first black President of the United States of America, Barack Obama has certainly cemented himself in American history. From my teenage years to young adulthood, he was my President; and as a black male, it is unexplainable the impact that this has had on my life. By the way he has carried himself, he has served as an example to young black men that being intelligent, articulate, and caring are the keys to success.[1] However, his confidence and poise may be the most memorable qualities regarding his leadership[2] and the fact that he has never shied away from his heritage.[3]

Further, his presidency should not be cherished and celebrated exclusively by black men and women. By becoming the first black President and performing well, he has broken barriers for all Americans who have the “audacity of hope.” [4] He has proven that if we strive for a goal that has not been achieved or what people say cannot be done, we are capable of achieving it and more.

Even with his success, some political leaders and scholars may choose to define his time in office as an abuse of executive power[5] or an inability to maximize this executive power.[6] Others may believe that his legacy will be erased over the next few years by the Trump Administration.[7] Although Obama’s Administration did have its flaws, which all administrations do, these arguments fail to acknowledge that his legacy should be defined by more than his accomplishments or policies.

A man who cherished his family, knew how to celebrate the good times,[8] and uplift our country in the bad times.[9] A man who lived by his actions rather than his words alone and had the “audacity of hope” even in the face of adversity.[10] These values are what defined Barack Obama’s presidency and what carried him throughout his time in the oval office. Finally, for any political leaders who believe that repealing the Affordable Care Act will diminish his legacy,[11] they are sadly mistaken. The moments that all Americans have shared with Barack Obama and his family and what they represented as the first family of the United States can never be repealed.

What Next?

For these upcoming years and beyond, we must remain forward-looking and build on the significance of Barack Obama’s presidency. Although there is much room for better equality in America, the leaders and participants of the March on Washington would certainly be proud that their efforts were not in vain. The fact that we judged Obama by the “content of [his] character”[12] when we elected him to serve as America’s president shows a step in the right direction.

Yet the common belief is that Obama has left America divided on racial relations,[13] although these reasons are either unexplained or illogical. For eight consecutive years, we entrusted the well-being of the United States in the hands of a black man. Men who were once discouraged from pursuing an education and becoming doctors or lawyers. If this does not show that at least some progress has been made since the March on Washington more than fifty years ago, it is difficult to imagine what will.

Rather than building walls[14] to truly divide this nation like it once was, we need to push for more inclusiveness in our educational institutions and better opportunities for immigrants.   Further, whether it be police-community relations, immigration or health care reform, one person’s policies cannot and will not change America for the better. As a democracy, America is greater than the sum of its parts; and if we truly want change, it will take all of us.

As Barack and Michele Obama have advocated the past eight years, every action that we as Americans take will have an impact on our generations of tomorrow.[15] Do we what a future that is still marred by the negativity regarding race relations or where America’s reputation as a the “land of opportunity” becomes an afterthought? It is up to us whether these questions will be answered in the negative or affirmative. For me, I am confident that America will be better for our future generations because I have the “audacity of hope” inspired by Barack Obama’s presidency.

[1]My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, http://www.mbkalliance.org/ (last visited Feb. 26, 2017).

[2]Chris Cillizza, The Remarkable Confidence of Barack Obama, The Wash. Post (Jan. 25, 2015), https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/01/20/the-remarkable-confidence-of-barack-obama/?utm_term=.549e43019d95.

[3]Ta-Nehisi Coates, My President Was Black, The Atlantic, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/01/my-president-was-black/508793/ (last visited Feb. 26, 2017).

[4]Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (2006).

[5]David Harsanyi, Obama’s Legacy Will Be Executive Overreach, The Federalist (Jan. 5, 2016), http://thefederalist.com/2016/01/05/obamas-legacy-will-be-executive-abuse/.

[6]Michael Eric Dyson, Barack Obama, The President of Black America?, N.Y. Times (June 24, 2016), https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/26/opinion/sunday/barack-obama-the-president-of-black-america.html?_r=1.

[7]Dylan Matthews, Trump Will Undo Much of Obama’s Legacy. Here’s What Might Survive, CNBC (Jan. 6, 2017, 12:45 PM), http://www.cnbc.com/2017/01/06/trump-will-undo-much-of-obamas-legacy-heres-what-might-survive.html.

[8]Being an avid sports and music fan, Barack Obama was probably the most charismatic president that America ever witnessed. See Coates, supra note 3.

[9]Arguably the most moving moment of Barack Obama’s time in office was when he shed tears because Congress remained stagnant in its policies on gun control even after the senseless murders of the group of children at Sandy Hook Elementary three years prior. See Stephen Collison, Barack Obama’s Emotional Evolution on Gun Control, CNN (Jan. 7, 2016, 6:07 AM), http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/05/politics/obama-gun-control-evolution-executive-order/.

[10]See Obama, supra note 4.

[11]Van R. Newkirk II, The Trump Administration’s First Blow to Obamacare, The Atlantic (Jan. 24, 2017), https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/01/the-trump-administrations-first-blow-to-obamacare/514103/Snady.

[12]Martin Luther King Jr., President, Southern Christian Leadership Conf., I Have A Dream (Aug. 28, 1963).

[13]Hans von Spakovsky, Obama’s Legacy Is a Weaker and More Divided America, The Daily Signal (Jan. 19, 2017), http://dailysignal.com/2017/01/19/obamas-legacy-is-a-weaker-and-more-divided-america/.

[14]Julie Pace et al., Donald Trump to Move on Border Security, Immigration Enforcement, and Building the Wall, Time (Jan. 24, 2017), http://time.com/4646273/donald-trump-wall-mexico-border-immigration/.

[15]Laura Barren-Lopez & Kate Sheppard, Michelle Obama: Who Do You Want as Your Children’s Role Model, The Huffington Post (July 26, 2016), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/michelle-obama-dnc-speech_us_5796c902e4b02d5d5ed2ac9b.

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